It takes teamwork to optimize safety.
While communication is important in nearly every aspect of railroading, it may be most crucial when taking place between field employees and dispatchers. It is integral for dispatchers to know the precise location of employees and equipment in the field.
“I need to know where people are to protect them,” Chief Dispatcher Kelly Petika said.
A lot is required of dispatchers. They aren’t responsible for one train and group of employees, but many. To keep infrastructure functional, Engineering always is working on something and must be accounted for in addition to numerous trains and ground personnel.
“It’s humbling,” Dispatcher Joseph Gallegos said. “Other people’s lives are in your hands.”
The scope of their work requires dispatchers to have a broad knowledge of railroading. This includes mastering the complex world of signals; each one is appropriate to a certain circumstance.
Gallegos credits his time as a switchman with helping him prepare for his current duties. He said staying focused and calm is imperative. For him, situational awareness includes both thinking ahead and having a perfect knowledge of the current circumstance. Those demands mean there’s little margin for error and no room for distraction.
“As soon as you walk through the door, you leave everything else behind,” he said.
The challenges make the job worth doing. Gallegos said helping keep the railroad fluid is satisfying. Petika agrees that keeping everything moving safely is the goal.
“Everyone strives to do a good job,” she said. “You do your best to leave the railroad in a little better shape than when you started.”